Is Titan (Facebook’s new webmail platform) suitable for PR ?
November 17, 2010 1 Comment
Since last Monday, Facebook has been progressively rolling out its new webmail platform, described by some as the Gmail killer and helped along by former Google star developer Lars Rasmussen (responsible for the formidable but abandoned Wave project and Google Maps) now on Facebook’s payroll. While few have had the opportunity to use Titan yet, there is much speculation about its success and the possible use of the platform for PR purposes.
Short answers: Success seems likely though probably not for PR. Here’s why.
In recent posts, I argued that email was still an essential ingredient of any PR recipe and looked at Facebook as a platform for PR. So Titan kind of hits a sweet spot in this mix, doesn’t it? It does and it has several arguments going for it:
- Opt out / Spam protection: any Facebook user is able to accept or refuse to receive email from any other. High five.
- Engagement history: on a friend’s profile, you can see the history of messages between the two of you. Great stuff.
- Simplification: email, IM and SMS all in one box. Nice (in theory).
- Every user’s email address is be firstname.lastname@example.org (grab yours now!) and mail to and from this address can be sent from Facebook or many other mailing platforms.
- Where Google Wave was brilliantly disruptive but had no user base or clear plan of attack, Titan actually simplifies messaging for Facebook’s huge user base.
So why do I not deem the platform PR worthy? Simply because that’s not what it appears to have been designed for. Titan’s design principle seems to have been convenience for existing Facebook users and nothing else.
For starters, here are definite No-No’s (I’m just guessing here, but feel confident on most points):
- No subject: An email’s subject is the pair of users between which it is happening. So an email is an endless timeline of exchanges with no topics. Fine for dinner invites but a definite deal breaker for PR.
- No segmentation. Facebook’s segmentation tools for paid advertising are pretty flimsy. It’s hard to imagine they will have been upgraded for a free service.
- No tracking or open-rates, link following … If these exist, I’ve not read anything about them anywhere.
Then there are questions:
- Security and privacy: Gmail reads your mail to suggest targeted ads. Some hate it, I find that perfectly normal for a high quality free service. But Facebook’s privacy breaches are notorious. So, without reassurance on this aspect, I would be very reluctant to use the service for anything but the most mundane information exchange.
- Email addresses for pages? You’d really want that for PR. But only profiles seem to be able to use Titan right now. If you know better, I’d love to hear from you!
- Personalized messages in mailing lists? I may be wrong here but I’ve not read anything about personalizing messages sent to lists.
Email in PR and stakeholder engagement is all about data. Data for targeting. Data for personalizing messages. Data in tracking and web analytics.
So my guess is Titan is here to stay. It is non disruptive (Google Wave was ahead of its time with no adequate marketing), focuses on convenience and will benefit from the huge exists base of Facebook users. I stand by my pre roll-out opinion : some marketers will probably use Titan, most pros will stick to Gmail? As for PR, I just can’t see who could use it successfully.
If you have more information or other points of view, please share them in the comments. Happy PR.